Movies make baccarat out to be the most sophisticated and risky game in the casino but in actuality, it is incredibly simple and tens of thousands of dollars are by no means necessary to play. There are only two decisions made by the player during the game: how much to wager and what to wager on, the rest is pure chance.
The object of the game is to have either a two or three card hand which, when the card values are added, totals or is closest to nine. Face cards and tens have a value of zero, aces equal one, and all other cards are valued as marked. No hand ever values more than nine. Anytime a hand totals more than nine ten is subtracted and the resulting number is the hand value (A hand of 9-6 would equal 5). Gameplay is very organized and there are no real nuances because every possible situation has a predetermined reaction.
The standard Baccarat rules:
• Both the player and the dealer receive two cards
• If either hand (player or dealer) equals either 8 or 9 (both numbers are called “natural”) gameplay stops and bets are won, lost, or pushed based on the original two card hands
• If neither hand is a natural the player’s hand is automatically played first
• If the player’s total on two cards is 5 or less another card is automatically drawn and then play moves to the dealer (no hand will ever have more than three cards)
• If the player has 6 or 7 and the dealer did not have a natural no card is drawn. Play stops and bets are won, lost, or pushed based on the original two card hands
• The dealer only draws a third card if the player does and only if his card total is equal to or less than the player’s total up to 7, when no card is drawn.
The options for wagering are threefold. The player can bet on his own cards, the dealer’s cards, or that the game will be a draw. All winning bets on the dealer’s hand pay a 5% commission and the edge is about 1.2%. Betting on the player hand, when no commissions are paid on player wins, results in a 1.06% house edge. Wagers on the tie typically pay off at 8-1 but that is in the face of a 14% house advantage; avoid the tie bet!
Once the player has placed the bet everything is in the hands of the dealer and no further decision need to be placed. That’s not bad for a game with an edge that is among the lowest in the casino.